32 Going on 20

I was thinking the other day, how I see my thirties as a second chance at my twenties.  I feel like I’m doing all the things I should’ve been doing ten years ago, but just didn’t get around to, because I didn’t know then what I know now.  A part of me wishes I had finished college, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do until less than a year ago.  Had I toiled through school and graduated, I probably wouldn’t have had the experiences I’ve had, or met the people I did, and I wouldn’t trade all that for a degree in something I wasn’t passionate about.

Not that I’m passionate about Medical Billing and Coding, but it’s a marketable skill for which I have the aptitude for, not to mention it’s a rung on a ladder, rather than a stepstool (i.e. not a dead end).  What I like most about it is that it’s not customer service oriented.  We don’t have to greet customers with some line of baloney the higher-ups cooked up (and don’t have to say, and probably never did, because they didn’t start out at the bottom, because they had a degree, etc.).

I waitress at a fifties-style Greek diner–a position where customer service is tantamount, but I also have the freedom to be myself.  All we have to do is tell them what the specials are, and, at the end, ask if they would like any homemade (I always mention homemade) pie or cheesecake.  I don’t have a script I have to follow.  I tend to give terrible customer service (not intentionally) when I have to be unnatural–I come off as very tense, because not being able to be myself stresses me out.

When I worked at Walgreens, even if the same person came in everyday for a pack of cigarettes, we had to ask them every single time, “Would you care to buy or donate a candy bar to the U.S.O.?”  The manager didn’t worry about cartons of cigarettes being stolen, but she worried about us not upselling fifty cent candy bars.  Retail is rife with common nonsense.

This is why I’m going into a field that fits my introverted and no B.S. personality.  What I will be doing is too important to fool with foolishness such as conversing with people from a script.

Seguing to my opening statement, I am doing, in my thirties, what most people did in their twenties–get married, have children, and getting a formal education.  A part of me wishes, had I known then what I know now, that I had done that last thing first.

I feel like I am trying to squeeze in all the things I should’ve done ten years ago, especially when it comes to my writing.  If nothing else, I should’ve gotten an English degree (I could’ve always went back to school, but at least I would’ve had something).  My uncle once said my dad (his brother) is the only person he’s ever known who went to college to get an education (rather than career advancement).  I am choosing to go back for both, though the more money thing is what tipped the scales towards going back, when for so long, I was convinced I wasn’t smart enough to finish college.  Now I know I just need to apply myself.  I can do this.

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The Passion

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I am a big believer in doing what I love, so I’ll never have to work a day in my life (or so the saying goes), but I’ve never felt I had that luxury.  I always had to take what I could get, and it’s so easy to get complacent in a job (I don’t mind working, but I hate looking for a job), a year goes by and you realize all you’ve gotten out of it is a paycheck.  Unless the paycheck is pretty substantial and you have something to show for it, it’s not enough.

Not so much getting married, but having a baby has made me take a much harder look at my future.  I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer, and because I had that, it didn’t matter what menial, low-paying job I settled for to get the bills paid.  I had something I loved to do in my free time, even though it wasn’t paying off yet in the monetary sense.

That’s not enough anymore.  A job, no matter how fun it is or how much I like the people, if it doesn’t provide, it’s not worth it.  I used to think all it took was hard work in an entry-level job, and the boss would notice and I’d be promoted.  I realize now I was never hungry enough to move up, because I wasn’t passionate enough (or ambitious enough) about the work to make it happen.  I worked hard, but the idea of working in retail for the rest of my life has never appealed to me, no matter how much money I had the potential to make.

For so long, I’ve avoided college because I didn’t believe I was smart enough to finish.  I know that’s not true.  I just have to work harder at it than others.  Any kind of math that includes the use of letters has never come easy for me.  For so long, I’ve tried to like things I hate (that includes certain healthy foods, as well), making myself miserable.  I am ready to be honest with myself.  I know whatever I like, I will naturally have a passion for.  I’ve always loved to write, so I’ve written.  I’ve always loved vegetables (never been a fruit person), and so I’ve eaten vegetables and the only kind of fruit I really care for is the kind that’s part of a sweet dessert (Campbell, Missouri peaches being an exception, and maybe a few other kinds, once in a great while).

My husband has always loved to cook, I’ve always loved to write, but those things aren’t paying off for us right now.  My husband has discovered, working in some of the local restaurant kitchens, that none are up to standard.  It was just this evening he realized he wanted to be one of those people who come in and turn struggling restaurants around, like on “Kitchen Nightmares”.  I suggested he become a health inspector, and it was like a light bulb went off.

As for me, I’d thought about becoming a nutritionist before, but it was daunting, knowing I had to go back to school rather than just take a test to obtain a license.  So, I’d forgotten that old ambition until several days ago.  I realized I was weary of working jobs that aren’t meant to be careers, or wouldn’t likely lead to a career–at least one that would interest me).  I’d started to think I’d gotten lazy, but that wasn’t it at all.  I’d just lost my enthusiasm.  What had satisfied me in my early twenties wasn’t satisfying me now.  I wanted more, and I’m becoming a better person for wanting more.

I’ve had a few wake-up calls, but they weren’t enough–I had to know what it was I wanted to do, I had to know what I needed to start working towards.  Yesterday, a tunnel stretched ahead of me, but I couldn’t see what was at the end of it.  Now I can.

Perhaps it’s that we don’t have the luxury of not knowing anymore.  I remember, years ago, watching a biography of John F. Kennedy, Jr., who didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life till he was 30.  I don’t remember what that was, but sometimes, when you’re comfortable, you get comfortable, and you don’t progress.  Sometimes we need to be pushed, if we don’t push ourselves first.

I am in a good place in my life right now.  Now, I can understand why Jenna Rink from “13 Going on 30” thought 30 was where it was at.  I used to think 30 was old (I did on my birthday, and I still like to tell my parents I’m 29).  Now I just think of 20 as young.